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Northwell Awards $1M to Employee-Driven Digital Health Innovation Projects

Northwell Health will fund two new digital health innovation projects, including one focused on an AI-enabled solution to navigate cancer patients to care.

Northwell Health has awarded $1 million to develop two employee-driven digital health innovation projects as part of the health system’s 2023 Innovation Challenge.

Winners of the competition include team leads from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the home of research at Northwell Health.

Each project will receive up to $500,000 to advance healthcare innovation.

Lead investigators of the first winning project includes Daniel King, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the Institute of Cancer Research at the Feinstein Institutes, and Sandeep Nadella, MD, a gastroenterologist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

The research team created an AI-enabled solution called iNav to identify and navigate pre-diagnosed and newly diagnosed cancer patients to cancer care, including participation in novel clinical trials.

“This feels like a new beginning,” King said in a public statement. “We recognized that one of the key problems in oncology is that we’re not able to navigate patients to care properly and quickly. What we can do with iNav is use technology to identify patients much earlier than we did before and promptly send them to get the correct care they need.”

Northwell Health designated the second funding award to a team led by Chunyan Li, PhD, associate professor at the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, and Timothy G. White, MD, chief resident at the Department of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital.

The team developed StrokeFighter, a bioelectronic medicine therapy designed to alleviate the negative effects of acute ischemic stroke (lack of blood flow to the brain) while preventing and treating stroke-induced vascular cognitive impairments through electrical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve.

The researchers have spent the last five years optimizing trigeminal nerve stimulation parameters through a unique wrap-around technique that could aid early stroke treatment.

“This work comes from a very small lab, and I really appreciate this opportunity,” said Li. “Some people may know about our work or what bioelectronic medicine is, but our research may one day help a lot of patients.”

Since the competition launched six years ago, hundreds of Northwell employees have submitted ideas. To date, Northwell has awarded funding to advance 13 projects.

This year, there were 84 submissions. After a screening process, six finalist teams were selected to present their pitches in person to a panel of judges, including:

  • Bunny Ellerin, digital health expert
  • Brenton Fargnoli, MD, managing partner at AlleyCorp Healthcare
  • Alissa Hsu Lynch, health tech innovator, board director, and Henry Crown Fellow
  • Tom Manning, executive chairman of Aegis Ventures and chairman of Ascertain

“Innovation and creativity are the essence of good organizations, and at Northwell we take pride in fostering a culture that promotes our team members who strive to advance science and the delivery of care,” said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health president and CEO.

“All of these submissions represent the very best ideas and novel approaches Northwell, and its talent, are pursuing to tackle some of healthcare’s biggest issues,” Dowling added.

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